A little ghoulish treat for Halloween!
Janice almost didn't notice it, camouflaged among the variety of coloured stones on the beach. But as luck would have it she stepped on one particularly large stone and lost her balance, so she instinctively looked down for somewhere safe to place her foot. Once she had recovered her balance, she picked it up, brushed off some sand, and turned it on.
It seemed like an ordinary camera, and it seemed to be in working order. She looked around, but there was no potential owner within visible range. (It was a cold, windy morning, not the best for a walk on the beach, but she liked the sharp freshness of the salt laden air on her face.)
Pressing a few buttons, she soon ascertained that there were twenty six photos stored in the camera; all of them were of people. It struck her as curious that all the photos were of different people, and almost all seemed to be people taking photos of themselves; - arm's length photos taken at unnatural looking angles. She imagined some modern day version of a birthday card, signed by a group of friends, but in this case it was a collection of photographs of those friends, to be presented as a memento to someone who was moving away, perhaps.
A mischievous smile crossed her face, as she imagined the real owner's confusion on seeing an unrecognisable face among those in her farewell gift, and after another check that no one was watching, she turned the camera around, stretched out her arm, and pressed the shutter button.
Darkness engulfed her, after a brief instant in which she saw a brisk catalogue of terrified faces, each frozen in time. She felt like she could not move, then realised that she could not feel at all. After a brief sensation of falling, there was a sharp pain, then nothing. Soon it seemed like time itself had stopped. Even thought became difficult; had she been able to, she would have panicked. But she just ... seemed ... to float ... there ... not sure, she eventually realised, where.
And then, gradually. even the darkness seemed to fade to nothing.
The camera fell back down into the stones and sand of the beach, a new face now occupying its screen, the picture count now showing twenty seven. After about sixty seconds, the power-saving function would turn it off, and Janice's soul would join the others in the virtual universe, lost forever to the real world.
And the camera would wait, again, for some other curious, vain fool to pick it up.
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